Micheel, Campbell share lead

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2003

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The PGA Championship was supposed to be the last chance for Tiger Woods to win a major. It turned into a great opportunity for two guys who have never even contended in one.

Chad Campbell, a 16-time winner in golf's minor leagues, holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole Saturday for a 5-under 65 - the best score this week at Oak Hill - and a share of the lead with Shaun Micheel.

Micheel, winless in 163 previous starts on the PGA Tour, led by as many as four strokes until he gave it all back with bogeys on his final three holes. He still had a 69, and a spot in the final pairing Sunday.

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They were at 4-under 206, three shots clear of Masters champion Mike Weir (70).

''I don't think either one of us has been in this position,'' Micheel said. ''Just because people have never heard of me or Chad doesn't mean we can't play.''

They showed everyone how on a steamy afternoon at Oak Hill, softened slightly by overnight rains that allowed for some low scoring.

Not many predicted in would come from these two.

Woods needed a low score to have any hope of getting close to the leaders. Instead, he couldn't find a fairway, finished with a sloppy 73 and will end the season without a major for the first time in five years.

''I've done it before,'' said Woods, 13 strokes out of the lead. ''I did it in '98. It won't be the last time.''

Surprise leaders like Campbell and Micheel are nothing new, either, especially not this year. Just one month ago, 26-year-old rookie Ben Curtis beat some of the best players in the world to win the British Open.

Not since 1969 have four guys who had never won a major swept the Grand Slam events. There are eight candidates among the top 11 on the leaderboard.

Tim Clark of South Africa had a 68 and was at even-par 210.

Experience might still have a say.

Weir, tied for the lead early in the third round until Micheel ran off a string of birdies, rallied with two birdies on the back nine and saved par from the cabbage-like rough in front of the 18th green.

Ernie Els sputtered along the back nine until he finished with a 30-foot birdie putt down the slope on the 18th for a 70 that left him only five shots behind. Joining him at 1-over 211 were Briny Baird (67), Alex Cejka (68) and Billy Andrade (72).

''I feel like I'm leaving shots on the golf course,'' Els said. ''If I can put something together, I can put pressure on the leaders.''

Two-time major champion Vijay Singh also was within range, despite making a bogey on the 18th for a 70. Singh was at 212, along with Charles Howell III (70) and Fred Funk (70).

Phil Mickelson, the first-round leader, shot a 72 but at 3-over 213, he still wasn't out of it.

Campbell and Micheel share more in common than the lead at the PGA Championship.

Both toiled in golf's development circuits. Neither has faced the kind of pressure that awaits them Sunday at Oak Hill, one of the toughest tests in the majors.

''Obviously, being in the last group of this tournament is a little bit different than any other tournament,'' Campbell said. ''But I'm going to approach it the same way, and go out there and just keep playing the way I've been playing.''

Woods' hopes of avoiding a Grand Slam shutout ended early Saturday, and it showed.

He didn't hit a fairway until the ninth hole, his shoulders sagging after each tee shot sailed toward the thick rough. He often walked 30 yards behind playing partner Jim Furyk; Woods usually walks briskly and confidently.

When he made his first birdie in 27 holes on No. 14, Woods raised both arms in mock triumph and bowed to the gallery.

''You're going to go years where you just don't win,'' he said.

He was tied for 43rd and headed for his highest finish ever in a major. His previous worst was a tie for 29th in the 1997 and 2001 PGA Championship.

Micheel is playing in only his third major - his best was a tie for 40th in the 2001 U.S. Open - and the nerves were evident when he pulled his opening tee shot in the left rough and made bogey.

Over the next 14 holes, he looked as though he had been through this routine before.

Facing a tough stretch, he stuck his approach shots close on Nos. 7 and 8 for birdies, then rolled in one from 30 feet on the ninth to reach 5 under par.

Even when he got in trouble - the shot from a fairway bunker that sailed into a gallery - Micheel managed to save par. Only after a tap-in birdie on the par-3 15th put him at 7-under did he start showing some cracks.

He missed the fairway on the final three holes, had to hack out and failed to convert 20-foot par putts, his lead dwindling until it was gone.

Campbell birdied three of his last four holes - the exception was a bogey on No. 17 when he hit into the trees - and wound up with a share of the lead.

The PGA Championship is a perfect fit for either of them to win. Twelve of the last 15 winners had never won a major.

This would be the perfect year for that trend to continue, especially coming right after Curtis' shocking victory at Royal St. George's.

Weir cannot be overlooked. Not only does he have a green jacket, he has won all six of his tournaments from behind.

''The two guys that are in the lead right now haven't won a tournament,'' the Canadian said. ''We'll see how it pans out tomorrow.''